We asked two Flylow athletes what weird stuff is in their pack. Their answers? Everything from gas station hot dogs to superglue to three pairs of gloves.
You know if you’re heading into the backcountry, there are a few essential items you must have with you (and know how to use): avalanche beacon, shovel, probe, skins. You should probably also bring things like food, water, sunscreen, a couple of extra layers. You know, the basics. But what else is in that big, heavy pack backcountry skiers haul around? We asked two Flylow athletes—Tahoe-based ski guide and educator Brennan Lagasse and Mount Shasta guide and ski patroller Jenna Kane—for a peek inside their packs.
First Aid + Emergency Items
“In an old skin bag (any sort of stuff sack will do) I always have a rotating combination of items that fall under the categories of first-aid, repair, and emergency. To start minimally, I always have at least four ski straps, a multi-tool, and an emergency bivy sack. I always have material to stop a bleed, and sling or stabilize an arm, shoulder, or leg in case of injury. Another random one in the emergency kit is a lighter or waterproof matches and a small firestarter.”
“I have a mid-sized Leatherman that my dad gave me years ago. I feel like I’m making him proud whenever I use it. I always carry at least two ski straps. They can keep a failing skin in place, secure a busted ski or snowboard boot, keep your skis on your pack, tourniquet, you name it. If I’m going out for a multi-day or guiding, I will bring a more comprehensive repair kit with bailing wire, fabric repair tape, parachute cord, superglue, basic first aid items, and some sort of emergency satellite communication device.”
Layers + Accessories
“Even on the warmest days ski touring, I always have some insulating layer in my backpack. Usually, it’s a General’s Down Jacket. Some respected friends also go another step to include a piece of foam. If you have a seriously injured backcountry patient, keeping them warm and off the snow is one of the first and most important steps.
With gloves, I have found having three pairs can really make or break a long day in the backcountry. You might be able to help a less prepared partner, and generally the weight and space in your pack an extra pair takes up is fully worth it if you are in need. I commonly think about a glove for the ascent (thinnest), glove for descent (medium), and then a big thick pair (ideally mitts) in case the other two end up getting too wet or some other glove failure happens on a tour.”
“The Betty Down is my go to for an insulating down jacket. If it’s real warm with unlikely chance of weather, I’ll bring a lighter option like the Mia Jacket, but I never go on a tour without some sort of emergency insulation. It packs down so small, it’s a no brainer.
I always bring two pairs of gloves and two forms of eye protection. These items are so essential, if you or your partner lose them, the day is pretty much over. For gloves, I usually bring one light pair for skinning and one heavier pair, like the Tough Guy or Ridge glove.”
Food + Water
“I always have Honey Stinger gels and chews in my backpack (cherry cola is my favorite flavor). I always have water and a lightweight, packable filtration system so I can stay hydrated when there is running water available on bigger tours. Over the years, I have gone from all bars back to good old peanut butter and jelly sandos.”
“There’s often clean water available in the alpine, but when you’re not feeling that confident about it, the Katadyn Free is small and easy and comes in multiple sizes. I bring electrolyte tablets or powder, ideally with caffeine. I’m a big fan of Nuun tablets and the Skratch Labs matcha green tea flavor. It seems I can never get the right nutrition to prevent the out-all-day headache with just food and water, so electrolyte replacement is crucial to feeling good all day long.
Peak Refuel Cookie Bites are miniature cookies and brownies and pretty much human kibble. I keep them in my pocket for easy access. I bring dried mangoes because they’re sugary, tart, and kinda salty. I like some ‘real food’ that’s savory and bready and will fill me up, like sharp cheddar cheese and homemade sourdough bread, or leftover pizza or a gas station hot dog works great, too.”
“Don’t forget skinwax. It can make or break a tour. I keep Mountain Flow Eco-wax in my kit as they are helping replace petroleum-based products with plant-based products for backcountry users. I don’t always bring my ski crampons on tours, but when you really need them, you will be so grateful to have them.
I always ski tour with a neck gaiter, a super versatile, helpful piece that’s perhaps one of the most minimal pieces of equipment I tour with every day. If there’s one more reasonable small, light piece to think about always having in your pack, it’s a headlamp.”
A whippet: I prefer the detachable Black Diamond version. I leave the whippet head attachment in my pack most of the time, but it’s great to have just in case things get more spicy than expected. The triple collapsing pole can get real short, which is helpful for when I’m going up or down something steep.
Especially in spring conditions, a block of hard wax helps tremendously to rub some wax on your bases after a long skin, at the top of your run and sometimes again at the bottom before skiing out. It also works on your skins if you’ve got snow glop going on.”